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After pedestrian deaths, Mountain View asks residents to suggest traffic fixes

By Carolina Wilson | 14 Oct 2014

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Tracy Chu, Mountain View resident and member of Great Streets, a group working toward people-friendly Mountain View streets, joins the City’s biking-walking community meeting in Mountain View, Calif. on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. The City’s Public Works Department welcomed the community to give input regarding ways to improve the neighborhood for bikers, pedestrians and drivers as part of the California/Escuela/Shoreline Complete Streets Project. (Carolina Wilson/Peninsula Press)

Tracy Chu, Mountain View resident and member of Great Streets, a group working toward people-friendly Mountain View streets, joins the City’s biking-walking community meeting in Mountain View, Calif., on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. The City’s Public Works Department welcomed the community to give input regarding ways to improve the neighborhood for bikers, pedestrians and drivers as part of the California/Escuela/Shoreline Complete Streets Project. (Carolina Wilson/Peninsula Press)

Mountain View is asking residents to propose improvements at major intersections after at least a half-dozen pedestrian fatalities since 2011 prompted widespread community calls for change.

The city began its outreach campaign — dubbed the Complete Streets Project — on Sept. 27 with a biking-walking public meeting that drew about 50 neighborhood residents and members of local traffic safety advocacy organizations. Mountain View has committed $450,000 to study the community’s bicycle, pedestrian and driving concerns along California Street, Escuela Avenue and Shoreline Boulevard.

Pedestrian fatalities across Mountain View have left residents concerned about local traffic safety. In April of last year, 81-year-old Mountain View pedestrian Sarra Golukhov was struck and killed by a minivan traveling westbound on Central Expressway when it veered off the road into the sidewalk. Another Mountain View resident, William Ware, 50, was killed by a speeding car while waiting at a California Street bus stop near Escuela Avenue.

The city’s project aims to study safety concerns through community conversation and engagement in a bold effort to quell its alarmed residents. City project manager Rey Rodriguez said inviting residents to bike and walk the streets was the best way to collect community feedback.

“We’ve never had a meeting like this before,” Rodriguez said, sporting a neon-yellow reflective cycling vest. “We were actually able to stand on the streets with the residents and they physically pointed to and described their concerns to us.”

Rodriguez and his team laid out large city maps at the Mountain View Senior Center after the biking-walking portion of the meeting. Residents filled the maps with bright stickers and written comments to indicate biking, walking and vehicle concerns at specific street locations for the hired consulting firm Nelson\Nygaard, which will evaluate public input and develop design concepts to present to the city council.

Addressing a dangerous pedestrian crossing at Shoreline Boulevard and California Street is one community demand. Reducing the number of vehicle lanes on California Street to allow more space for bicyclists is another.

Mountain View residents join the city’s biking-walking community meeting in Mountain View, Calif. on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. The City’s Public Works Department welcomed the community to give input regarding ways to improve the neighborhood for bikers, pedestrians and drivers as part of the California/Escuela/Shoreline Complete Streets Project. (Carolina Wilson/Peninsula Press)

Mountain View residents join the city’s biking-walking community meeting in Mountain View, Calif., on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. (Carolina Wilson/Peninsula Press)

“Complete streets are streets that are accessible, convenient and safe for everybody,” said Ria Hutabarat Lo, a Nelson\Nygaard consultant. “We’re here to really investigate the issues, identify where those key issues are, and try to come up with some design concepts to remedy those issues.”

Tracy Chu has been a resident of Mountain View for the past 20 years. After three recent pedestrian fatalities in her neighborhood, Chu formed a group called Great Streets, which strives to make Mountain View streets safe, more accessible and people-friendly.

“We don’t just have to live with these accidents,” Chu said. “We don’t just have to accept this.”

Another community group, Safe Mountain View, shared similar safety concerns and says child safety should be the priority.

“What about the kids?” Patrick Moore, founder of Safe Mountain View, said in an interview. “When the city designed bike facilities, they didn’t design them for kids. They designed them for confident adults that don’t mind mixing with traffic.”

Moore wrote “death” four times on the meeting’s city maps as he set out to indicate the pedestrian fatalities that worry him as a resident and as a father of two.

Mountain View resident Ricardo Gonzalez gives input on a community map noting locations where they hope to see neighborhood improvements for pedestrians, bikers and drivers in Mountain View, Calif. on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. The City’s Public Works Department welcomed residents on a biking and walking community tour and then opened discussion for neighborhood improvements give as part of the California/Escuela/Shoreline Complete Streets Project. (Carolina Wilson/Peninsula Press)

Mountain View resident Ricardo Gonzalez gives input on a community map noting locations where they hope to see neighborhood improvements for pedestrians, bikers and drivers in Mountain View, Calif., on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. (Carolina Wilson/Peninsula Press)

“If you were to ask a parent here if they would let their kid bike to a friend’s house or school or the library,” Moore said, “almost universally the response is ‘no way, no how.’”

In July, Safe Mountain View joined the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and other local groups in a three-hour demonstration for a protected bike lane on California Street.

Allowing more street space for bicyclists and pedestrians is a common concern among Mountain View residents. Erik Onorato was killed by a pickup truck on April 9, 2012, while walking near the intersection of North Shoreline Boulevard and Wright Avenue. Since his death, Onorato’s mother Debbie has continued to express concern for pedestrian and bicycle safety.

“Erik’s death was such a horrible nightmare for our family and it still breaks my heart to know he is gone,” Onorato said. “There is no consistent space allowed for the bikers. And this allows for blind spots.”

The next meeting on the issue will be on Oct. 30 at the Mountain View Senior Center.

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